In 1980, HUD published a document “Building Value into Housing, 1980 Awards, A Compendium of Winning Submissions Under HUD’s 1980 Building Value into Housing Program”. The projects selected in this program were “categorized as items of “value engineering”, the concept of increasing quality without increasing cost, or of decreasing cost without decreasing quality. This approach has historically been common in other areas, such as the defense and automotive industries, but has not been utilized extensively in residential construction. Value engineering is clearly central to HUD’s mandate to seek innovative means whereby housing costs can be reduced.” 

In a document released by the Department of the Army, Office of the Chief Engineer, “Value Engineering is an organized effort directed at analyzing the function of construction, equipment and supplies for the purpose of achieving these functions at a reduced life cycle cost without sacrificing quality, aesthetics, or operation and maintenance capability. We deliberately set about the business of 

  • (1) selecting high cost areas to study; 
  • (2) determining the basic function of the item; 
  • (3) “brainstorming” the problem and developing a list of many alternate ways of performing the function; 
  • (4) selecting the best possible alternative to perform the function at lowest cost; and 
  • (5) presenting and selling the proposal.

This methodology has been our methodology by the past and will continue to define our goals in the demonstration program.


Following the “Standards Recommended for Permanent Industrial Housing Development” of the Department of Labor, we will build 7 of the 9 types of houses in order to update the standards of 1918 into a modern “ideal” on the John R. Commons model.

Type 1. Single-family house.
Type 2. Two-family house.
Type 3. Single-family house with rooms for lodgers or boarders.
Type 4. Lodging house for men.
Type 5. Lodging house for women.
Type 6. Tenement house.
Type 7. Boarding house.

The houses will be attached and they will be covered with food gardens. While the foundations will have a structural pattern, the design of the gardens will offer an artistic disposition of planters and roof decks to keep the natural aesthetic of the site. The roof gardens will be inspired from the Jardins de Chaumont sur Loire.

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In 2012, Dr. Sandrine GERMAIN, developed and engineered a technology to increase the thermal resistance of wooden structures. The technology consists of three layers of structural wood separated with rockwool panels.

This technology breaks thermal bridges in order to superinsulate the house from below, above and all around the walls. The first prototype was designed, engineered and built using 35% of oak from waste stocks of traditional sawmills. The oak was selected, cut and repurposed into construction wood what increased the value of the wood by 220% directly injected in the rural economy (read our posts on forestry). All other woods were softwoods. The prototype was built with a final cost of $111.48/sqf.

With the first prototype built in 2012, we could reach the highest level of insulation. The total energy consumption was 31 kw/m²/year and the greenhouse gases were 1 kgCO2/year. We have used cogeneration systems and innovative solutions to insulate walls and thermal bridges.


All houses will be built on helical piles to limit the degradation of the soils from invasive materials. Helical piles also offer a better assessment of the soils on each pile to warrant a better quality of building. The space below each house will be covered with radon mats to collect the gas into water and treat potential hazards.

Acoustic & fire resistance

The group quarter consist of attached houses. Houses may be one up to three story for each household. Being attached, we will increase the acoustic of the houses with high insulation. We use Rockwool on 3 separate layers to sound proof all houses. Rockwool is fire resistant and serves also as a barrier against the propagation of fire.


The site is off grid so we must produce our own electricity. We will install 2 different plants, both working on bioenergy produced from waste food and water. First plant will use a stirling engine from Qnergy. Second plant will use an engine from Tecogen. Both will run on our production of methane.

Our two plants will produce enough energy for the homes, the makerspace and for our electrical karts. The methane production will also generate part of the energy for our cars and trucks. The cost of all utility bills will be incorporated with the cost of the rent in order to protect families against unplanned expenses.

Roof tops

The rooftops will be flat, covered with decks and planters where we will grow food gardens. All planters will be connected to an automated water system controlled with sensors and solar panels. We will use hay as a way to prevent evaporation and will use 3 layers substrates to produce high quality organic products in the model of J-C Rey’s autonomous gardens.

The decks and the gardens will create an adiabatic system to keep the houses cool from the heat and warm from the cold. We will use vines and grapes to create shadows. We will use wicker to create small fences and develop an harmony of aesthetic gardens. The public will have access to the gardens with an entrance fee or a membership. Each year, the gardens will be embellished by decorators on concourse. Members of the SAB Center will cultivate the gardens in cooperation with our nature therapy programs for homeless residents.

LEED label

We will apply the LEED certification to our demonstration program in order to show that social housing can reach high quality construction while still being affordable. We can only face the challenges of climate change by democratizing green technologies. We will demonstrate how the financial mechanisms of the master plan contributes to better quality buildings.

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